Welcome to my new blog. I am a telecommunications trainer by day and solar observer during breaks and observe the wonders of the night. I use affordable techniques to take snaps of the Sun, Moon, planets and anything else I can get on my limited equipment.
I had an unexpected clear spell for a while. Without any whole constellations on show, I did a shot of Melotte 111 with my DSLR at 70mm, ISO 6400 and 8 seconds exposure. I managed to get a few frames in before cloud moved in. Rather than inwardly moaning, I was glad to manage anything at all on a poor night. I kept half an eye open for Scorpiid and late Lyrid meteors, The odds were against it and I did not notice any sporadic meteors either.
Philip Pugh describes himself as a boring person who sometimes does interesting things. From 2007 to 2011, he published four titles under Patrick Moore's "Practical Astronomy" series.
Despite the success of these books, he always wanted to write a beginner book and published "Being an Astronomer" in 2018. He is now writing shorter pieces under the "Phil's Scribblings" series. The first one is "Astrophotography with a DSLR". Many of Phil's Scribblings were available on the now-defunct "Astronomy Wise" website.
Phil's writing history goes back to 1980 when he published a humorous piece in "Angling" magazine. Recently, he has had articles published in Best Binocular Review:
Although mostly known most recently for astronomy, Phil was once a competitive chess player, winning county junior championships and was a bridge master. His other claim to fame was being born exactly the same day as Bruce Willis.
March 21stI was at home with a stomach bug but otherwise felt fine. My day job involves a lot of driving and visiting people in their homes. I completed my section on Aquila and included some of the surrounding features, such as Delphinus.
I've now finished Cygnus, which contains the beautiful double star Albireo.
I dug out an old photo of Grus from a photo I took from Aruba. Unfortunately, my Chapter 8 is very northern hemisphere biased because that's where I do most of my observations and photography from.
I finished off with Scorpius.
Again, it was a busy day but managed to complete my section on Taurus. I also completed Perseus.
I finished with Lyra and included a diagram of how to find the elusive M56.
Although it was my day off from the day jobs, I got bogged down in non-writing activities. However, I added a lot more substance to my section on Orion. Here's the annotated photo:
I didn't do a lot of writing today but drew two small diagrams showing the relative sizes and positions of the galaxies in Leo. I don't have the right equipment to photograph them but, if I did, it would negate the idea that Being An Astronomer is a beginner book. I have seen the galaxies but each of them look like small, fuzzy patches of light where a galaxy is supposed to be.
I also re-arranged my constellations chapter into alphabetical order and realised that I need to write a lot more detail on each constellation.
Overall, I'm thinking that my book will have several editions and I will probably release the second in summer or autumn.
I used a recent photo of Leo and annotated it with the bright stars and the positions of galaxies. Hard work but well worth it.
I am not planning to include all constellations, just a selection. February 11th I revised the solar section but did not change many words.I added a lot of photos instead.
I revisited the planetary section of "Being an Astronomer" and added a few newer photos and tweaked a few details. The next section is about the Sun.
I also read a lot of discussion about being a writer. There are many writers and there are almost as many types of writer as there are writers. Most of us never get published and the overwhelming majority of those that do cannot make a full-time living from it. Some writers have fixed ideas about how many words they should write and/or how many hours they should spend a day. That may be fine for full-time writers who would probably spend all day most days procrastinating. At the time of writing, I had two day jobs and some days were too busy to even think of writing.
Many writers tend to blog about writing and some are active on social platforms. Some of this time is valuably spent. Networking with other authors about how to go about work is fine but you can overdo it and it can become another excuse not to get on with the business of writing. Time spent promoting yourself or your publications is time well-spent, especially if you find out which media channels generate your most purchases. Also, time spent looking at your genre or intended genre of other ideas is not wasted. There is little point in competing in already-crowded space, unless you really are able to offer something unique.
As my writing time (like everybody else's) is limited, I like to make sure I am not wasting too much. Before launching a lengthy project, I like to have some idea of whether people will actually read the end product. In addition, as well as writing, there is editing, re-writing some sections, researching (especially in my genre of specialist interest) and images. This probably takes 2 to 3 times more time than first drafting.
This (to my mind) rather makes judging productivity by numbers of words rather meaningless.
I haven't spent much time writing but am making steady progress on the second edition of "Being an Astronomer": https://www.amazon.com/Being-Astronomer-Philip-Pugh-ebook/dp/B07DMQVD15/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1549031897&sr=8-12&keywords=philip+pugh
I have corrected some minor errors, added some clarifications and replaced/added more photographs.
I'm starting on my 2019 report, which will be finished when the year is over. January was a more active month than past Januarys, despite missing the lunar eclipse.
Although my photo session failed to produce any images that I could use. I made a good start on the second edition of "Being An Astronomer".
Well, I have my roadmap sort of sorted-out. Any activities that make money outside of writing will naturally take priority, unless I really get in the Amazon Top 100. Actually, "2018 an Astronomer's Year" has reached the dizzy heights of 12 512:
Most writers, apart from J.K.Rowling, William Shakespeare and the like will be rather impressed by that.
I'm not planning on anything completely new for 2019. I'm going to at least start the 2nd edition of "Being an Astronomer". The main change will be a lot more illustrations of constellations. Naturally, I'll also add any new photos to other sections. Apart from the usual reasons for delay, it depends on the British weather, which has delayed previous projects.
The other plan is not quite new. The original idea is about 6 years old. I revisited it last year but lots of things (including paid magazine work) pushed it to the back burner. The current working title is "The Quantum God". See last year's blog for details.
January 23rdI finally finished my Webcamming booklet, which I had postponed to keep my previous booklet current:
January 7thAs it was my day off, I made good progress with my 2018 retrospective and have called it "2018 an Astronomer's Year". I was going to do a similar one on 2001 but didn't get many results. I'm glad I waited, as it would have made some rather dry reading without my photographs. I had a couple of sections to finish, then the final refining and checking. January 1st
I started the year with just two projects on the go and both were part of the Phil's Scribblings series of articles and booklets. I had started writing "Webcamming" but decided to include some step-by-step instructions, so I had shelved it for the time being, due to weather.
Being the end of the year, I wanted to finish my retrospective but wanted to consider a new, catchy title. Unlike previous end-of-year reports, I decided to include an outline of how I achieved what I did, to make it more interesting for the readers.
Philip Pugh's Asocial BlogPAGE DOWN FOR LATEST UPDATES
I always thought of myself as a social person, first down the Student Union Bar. 40 years later I have no idea how much a pint of beer costs in a pub. Do they even serve pints these days, or is it half-litres? That’s what I mean by being “asocial”. Being anti-social is deliberate sabotage of other peoples’ lives, like vandalising bus timetables, smashing windows and all that. I’m certainly not that, nor do I wish to be. I simply do not meet people in a traditional social setting. At first, I thought it was me, that I was somehow different and not inherently likeable. Well I do have personality traits that many people find uninteresting or irritating but just name one person who doesn’t, not that I’m using that in any way as an excuse. No, I’ve come to the conclusion that we now live in a very asocial society (is it even a “society” any more?). I’m just an example and not an exception.
Firstly, social life pretty much went out of the window when our daughter was born. No, I do not regret having her, nor do I regret putting her first but, as a result, my wife and I neglected ourselves. Secondly, I live far from my birth family and even further than my in-laws, actually the other side of the Atlantic and the equator. We have friendships here that we value very much and they know we are here for them and vice-versa. Thirdly, it is impossible to meet friends down the pub or visit anyone when you are part-way round the world on a business trip or, for that matter, packing for one or unpacking from one! But I’m online a lot and I do interact with people through work, so I do have a social comment, even though I am asocial.
Global Warming March 20th
Gosh has it really been 10 months since I last blogged here, not that I haven't been blogging about astronomy and writing. Global warming has been a hot (no apologies for the pun!) since 1973 when we were all encouraged to plant a tree. The situation is that if you are a "goodie", you believe that global warming is 100% or nearly 100% due to human activity. If you don't believe that then you are a "climate change denier" and therefore a "baddie". So far, I am a baddie!
IMO climate change is real. I remember needing gloves to go fishing in September and have seen ice in the margins of lakes. These days, I consider September as a "summer" month. Also through fishing (which I haven't done since 2003) I learned that pollution is real. In more recent years, I have seen the stickleback population of one local brook drop to zero and a mere fraction of its former population in another. Who cares? It's not as if sticklebacks have any sport fishing value, like trout, etc. Well I care! Sticklebacks are part of small ecosystems and part of the food chain.
In common with the goodies, I have no doubt that the activities of humans is detrimental to the environment as a whole. What I disagree with them is that global warming and cooling happened long before humans evolved on this planet. However, far from letting the human race off the hook, it means IMO that simply eliminating the effect of human activities by cleaning up our act and "offsetting" by using technology and planting more trees, etc. that it will not be enough.
Whilst being carbon neutral is a laudable and tough target, we have to do even better. To compensate for natural causes of global warming, we must be CARBON NEGATIVE.
I've Been Busy May 23rd 2018
I haven't posted anything here for ages. It isn't as if there hasn't been anything important going on, like Brexit, Ball Tampering, #MeToo and the like, not to mention some rather strange omissions from the England World Cup squad. I've been busy, too busy. I see there's a book out called "Busy is the New Stupid". Of course, I've been too busy to read it and would also need to justify the cost of buying it, as I'm on a restricted budget. The latter helps me justify the fact that I haven't read it. Do I even NEED to read it? Maybe not, the title says it all.
For about 300 or more years, humankind has developed loads of labour-saving devices and automation has meant that machines can increasingly take over tasks that humans can do. So that means we can only work four hours a day. Instead, some professions are working increasingly more hours. We have developed a culture of presenteeism. Come on, be honest, who has not sent the boss an e-mail just before bedtime to create an impression of presenteeism? Of course, the boss can see through it, just as his boss can see through all the e-mails sent from your boss and a few that he/she has forwarded for good measure. In the workplace, being busy or pretending to be is highly important. When it comes to downsizing, offshoring or any other jargonese for reducing the workforce, the employer would not dare dispense with the services of a busy person? Well it sort of makes sense but, no, I have heard of someone who literally had no work to do for 18 months! His boss wanted to retain his expertise, liked him and did not wish to get rid of him. Most important of all, his boss could AFFORD to keep him. There was no financial pressure to reduce costs.
Unfortunately, this culture has spilled over into our private lives. By being "indispensible" to our families, we are needed. Also we can easily be "busy" to avoid tackling chore that we would rather avoid. For several weeks, I have been feeling that the world is turning too fast and I can't keep up with it. I have a "to-do" list as long as my arm. Due to my personality, many chores I avoid until I know that I have enough spare time to complete them without interruption. I just hate leaving things half-done. I have an agenda that is important to me and I like to tick all of the boxes before I need to help deal with someone else's. Sounds selfish and single-minded, yes, but many of my agenda items (probably over half) are jobs that others are too tired, don't have the right skillset or are just too busy to do.
Are all of the things that keep me busy, urgent or even necessary at all? I don't need to maintain a social media presence to improve my status in the world. I need it to promote my writing. Whatever any writer will tell you about their "art", we all want to receive more money from writing. Well that's it for now. I have an important appointment for my day job. I'm busy.
So yes, it is like two sides of a coin. Feminists claim that parading female beauty (or perhaps, in their eyes, female sexuality) is demeaning to women. The girls feel that they are being denied a source of income. So who is right?
Miss World, F1 girls, you name it, they have all come under fire. Yet, unlike many porn stars, nobody is forcing these girls to take part in these events. Besides, this is neither porn nor bare sexuality. They are being paid and, usually, quite well. If they are being objectified, it is of their own free will.
Now would I mind if I was objectified for my looks? Not a bit, although whatever looks I might have had have long gone. However, that is not really the point. In general, women do not usually objectify men in the same way that men objectify women, so my view is more hypothetical. I fully support the right of women to look at naked men but, honestly, the main “market” for pictures of “sexy” men is the gay community. Would I mind being “objectified” by a gay man? No, not really. Gay men have as much right to objectify men as lesbians have the right to objectify women. Yet, it is undeniable and an inconvenient truth, that men are the main objectifiers, so perhaps the feminists have a point.
As I’ve become older, I have separated the idea of beauty from “sexiness”. Maybe it came as the result of growing up and being dad to a young woman. Is parading female beauty objectifying? I say no but parading female sexiness is. Is it morally wrong? Perhaps but only because men are not objectified to the same extent. There is a fundamental difference between the genders in this way. Yet, is it the willing, paid participants who are being exploited or the (mostly) men as the consumers?
Would I like my daughter to appear on Page 3? Not on your nelly! But I would defend her right to do so if that was her choice.
This is crass lunacy on so many levels. Firstly, there are fights in and outside pubs and nightclubs very weekend in this country. Why does it take more than three months to investigate an alleged fight outside a nightclub? Surely the police and judicial system have got several centuries worth of experience of dealing with these sort of things? I've seen some speculation as to what happened, yet seen nothing to confirm or deny it.
I always thought people were supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Now, if someone is in the public eye, they are "tried and convicted" by the press and if they are proven innocent, well there is "no smoke without fire" is there? Didn't he hire a great solicitor who could get him off?
Then what about the England and Wales Cricket Board? The Aussies must be laughing their heads off at us. Perhaps Ben Stokes was unwise to be outside a nightclub after 2 AM. As far as I know there was no grievous bodily harm and if they ever jailed everyone who ever got involved in a bit of fisticuffs, over half of the adult male population would be in clink. No, I'm not excusing it and I'm not condoning it but a fight outside a nightclub is hardly in the same class as armed robbery, terrorism or causing death by drunk driving. If the judicial system couldn't get their act together and knock the issue on the head BEFORE the start of the Ashes, then why was Ben Stokes not allowed to play? Perhaps he should have been suspended from vice-captain, at least until it was resolved.
As it was, this lunacy cost England one of their top players. Few might speculate that we would have saved the Ashes even if he played but even the Aussies would feel that the team that they beat wasn't a full strength one and the victory was somewhat hollow. Has this been in the public interests and the interests of the game of cricket? Not a hope?
Government gimmick or a genuine attempt to deal with an increasing problem? Whichever your view, loneliness is real and it won't go away in a hurry.
Aside from the devastation that most of us feel following a bereavement or relationship break-up, there is the feeling that many people do not have much contact with others. Honestly, I think that the problem has always been with us but has become much worse. Unlike the USA, people in the UK have traditionally been reluctant to migrate far from where they grew up. However, people have become more willing to move to better jobs, cleaner air, less traffic, more entertainment, cheaper housing and a million and one other reasons. Cheaper 'phone calls and the internet have helped people keep in touch with friends and family but, quite often, intra-country migrants do not make many new friends after they move. Despite labour-saving devices, people are more busy with longer working hours, longer commutes and the financial necessity of needing two full-time incomes to support a family.
Using myself as an example, I have a small circle of people that I see often. Those of you who remember George Best, will know that he was not only a great footballer but also a great social personality. Yet he once said that he only had six really close friends. If we are close to a small number of people, the loss of one can have a profound impact.
I think we have lost our sense of local community over they years but was it ever really there? Perhaps in pockets of the UK but not to the extent it is portrayed on telly. I think most people experience loneliness at some stage in their lives. Is there a cure and will having a minister for it make any difference? The jury is out.
January 21st Halesgate like Stokesgate
Another daft situation where a cricketer was suspended for non-cricket-related incidents: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/42762619. Would a shop assistant be suspended from their job for being involved in a fight on a night out???
The sky was clear but it was cold and I felt too tired to drag a telescope outside. I took some full disc solar shots with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 1/4000 second focal length.
March 17th 1015 GMT
There was lots of moving cloud around but I managed a few shots of the Sun with my PST and DSLR.
March 16th 2355 GMT
There was a lot of moving cloud around but I managed to snap the Moon with my DSLR anyway. I used 300mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 1/4000 second exposure.
March 14th 1235 GMT
The Sun looked quiet in my Coronado PST, although the professional observatories showed some features. I snapped in hope! I caught some minor activity on the edge of the solar disc, so processed the Red and Green channels separately.
March 12th 2235
There was a rare patch of clear sky, so I “attacked” the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 1/4000 second exposure. Unfortunately, all attempts were ruined by poor focus.
I also tried some longer-exposure shots on the Moon with nearby Aldebaran. Now these DID work!
March 11th 1010 GMT
The Sun was quiet again in hydrogen alpha light, as I took some more images.
March 10th 2330 GMT
I went out again and shot a few frames of Leo at ISO 6400, 30 seconds exposure and 16mm focal length. I realised that the ISO was too high, so reshot with 15 seconds exposure. I stacked 13 frames and also caught Leo Minor above Leo.
March 10th 2035 GMT
I went out to catch Perseus on film but found conditions difficult with moving cloud. I kept moving the camera around to catch patches of clear sky.
The first shot was the Plough but I had to remove a lot of stray light.
I got my Perseus shot for a writing project but attempts to stack multiple images resulted in some stars appearing double. I processed a single frame that also included the Pleaides (M45).
I caught the Hyades and Pleaides in the same frame.
I took two frames of Cassiopeia but they didn't stack. I processed a single shot and caught the Perseus Double Cluster and Melotte 20 in the same frame.
March 10th 1835 GMT
There was still a lot of moving cloud around so I just shot the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 400 and 1/200 second exposure.
March 10th 1215 GMT
I had been watching moving cloud, on and off, for a while when I finally caught a clear spell and photographed the Sun. It was quiet in hydrogen alpha light.
March 7th 0940 GMT
Finally, March kicked off with a clear patch of sky between the clouds. The Sun was quiet but I had a nice, sharp image with my Coronado PST.
After photographing the Sun, I snapped some daffodils in our garden.
I passed St Mary the Virgin Church at Upton Scudamore.
I passed the River Thames at Kemble. It was about the same level as the last time I had stopped there. Neither the original source nor the side stream had water.
I snapped Winchcombe Church but the door was locked, so no inside shots.
I snapped another source of the Thames, Swill Brook after dark. It was flowing, whilst it had been almost dry the last time I looked. The photo, however, looked uninspiring.
We took our dogs to a local park and I caught this tree in blossom.
I was between appointments and visited Blaise Castle in Bristol. It looks nice but is a tough climb. I also saw many squirrels on the way up, although they were reluctant to pose for photos.
I saw a rainbow from home.
I drove past Kemble and, on the way out of the village, stopped by the River Thames. The last time I had seen it, it was dry. There was some water but it was quite shallow and the original source of the Thames and a side stream that joins the main river were both dry.
Outside Nailsworth. I found a crop of snowdrops. In fact, I had past several that day but it was not always easy to stop for a photo while driving,
I was in Nailsworth when I snapped the clock tower.
I also snapped the well beside Nailsworth Stream.
Nailsworth Stream is home to some brown trout, although I did not see any.
The Sun was just not very quiet, it was even quieter than that! I took some shots in the vain hope of catching something on camera. I did but not much.
February 27th 0810 GMT
It was rather cold but clear when I checked out the Moon. It was just past last quarter phase and I snapped it with my DSLR at ISO400 300mm focal length and 1/200th second exposure.
Unfortunately, I could not get the right contrast.
February 26th 2250 GMT
I went out again and took some shots of Ursa Minor and Cassiopeia. It was starting to get a bit hazy, so called it a day.
February 26th 2200 GMT
I took a few frames of Leo using my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 10 seconds exposure. Some mist ruined the photo but I managed to get the main star patterns.
February 25th 2030 GMT
I took a few widefield shots of Gemini, then reset the controls for star trails around the Pole Star. I caught Cancer as well.
February 25th 1840 GMT
I saw Mercury low near the western horizon. It was too low to catch in a telescope. Binoculars showed it as a disc but I could not detect the phase. I tried the DSLR on it, more in hope than expectancy. I needed to remove a lot of chromatic aberration.
February 25th 1000 GMT
The Sun was quiet again, even in hydrogen alpha light.
February 24th 2200 GMT
I returned outside with my DSLR and used it at 300mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 2 seconds exposure.
First was the Orion Great Nebula (M42).
After an OK-ish result from a single frame, I revisited the stacked image to extract more detail.
Then there were 27 frames of the Pleaides:
Again, I tried an alternative process to show more stars and some nebulousity, although the result was not so sharp.
The Beehive (M44) was out of focus but looked OK when I shrunk it.
February 24th 2000 GMT
I tried a few constellation shots, mostly around Orion but did not have much luck. I managed 3 decent frames of Orion and stacked them using DSS.
February 19th 0625 GMT
The Moon appeared full, low in the north west, so I took some frames with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/2500th second exposure.
February 18th 2000 GMT
Things did not go to plan! I attempted lunar close-ups with my Mak and Bresser Electronic Eyepiece and I had PC crashes and clouds to contend with. I managed two imaging runs aimed at Plato and Copernicus/Kepler.
February 18th 1740 GMT
It was not long after sunset and I knew that Mercury was in the evening sky. Superficially, the sky appeared clear but, on checking the area near sunset, I could not see any sign of the planet. The Moon, however, was different. It was near full and Tycho’s rays were dominating the moonscape. I could also see Plato, Copernicus and Kepler.
I followed up with some snaps of the Moon with my DSLR at the same settings as the evening before. I managed three shots in focus, so combined them.
February 17th 2110 GMT
There was lots of moving cloud around but I found a clear patch to take some frames of the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/2000 second exposure.
February 16th 2110 GMT
Despite the weather forecast, there was a lot of haze so I snapped the Moon early using the same approach as the evening before.
February 15th 1615 GMT
I was out and about with only binoculars. The sky was very clear, so I took a look at the Moon, which was well clear of the horizon. I could clearly see Clavius and Tycho’s ray system was already prominent. Despite the daylight, the contrast was very good.
Although the Learmonth images did not show any features on the Sun, I decided to have a rare look at the Sun, as I normally carry my filters with me. I did not see any features. The Sun was quiet, indeed. February 15th 1115 GMT
The Sun looked quiet in hydrogen alpha light again.
February 14th 2110 GMT
I took some shots of the Moon with my DSLR only. I used 300mm focal length, 1/2000 second exposure and ISO 100.
I was very pleasantly surprised to end up with nine images in focus. I stacked them using Microsoft ICE, then finished in GIMP. I removed the red and blue channels and adjusted colour, curves, brightness and contrast to end up with a decent result.
February 14th 1350 GMT
The Sun appeared quiet in hydrogen alpha light again but I saw some minor signs of activity.
February 13th 2110 GMTAfter an underwhelming couple of lunar shoots two days before, I increased the exposure time to 1/160 second, with ISO 100 and 1.54m focal length. It seemed to work better and I stacked 110 frames.
February 11th 2120 GMT
It was my first use of my 127mm Maksutov for the year. The Moon was nicely placed from our back garden. Unfortunately, my Bresser Electronic Eyepiece caused my PC to crash. I think it may have been because I had to rebuild my PC in January. I used my DSLR with my Mak instead to obtain some full disc shots. I used ISO 100, 1.54m focal length and 1/200 second exposure.
Unfortunately, the result was disappointing, despite having stacked 70 images.
February 11th 1845 GMT
I did another shot of the Moon with my DSLR using the same settings as the evening before.
February 11th 1510 GMT
The Sun was quiet again in hydrogen alpha light.
A second attempt at processing revealed a little more detail.
February 10th 2120 GMT
I snapped the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/1000 second exposure.
February 7th 0940 GMT
There was a persistent clear patch of sky around the Sun. A view through my PST suggested that the Sun was very quiet but I took some full disc shots in the hope of detecting something. The Big Bear images that morning also suggested an unusually quiet sun.
February 2nd 0940 GMT
There was snow and ice around, so I snapped the Sun in hydrogen alpha light from indoors. It was the most blank and featureless Sun I'd seen but the Big Bear images showed little, too,